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Chris Brown - Graffiti

Chris Brown, Graffiti

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

TEN months after hitting the headlines for his assault on then girlfriend Rihanna, and weeks after Rihanna released her latest album, Chris Brown drops Graffiti and bids to rebuild a career left in tatters by photos of the physical damage he did.

You can’t say he isn’t trying, delivering 20 tracks that include collaborations with Swiss Beats, Lil Wayne, Sean Paul and Lupe Fiasco.

But the result is an unpalatable listen, not only because of the barely apologetic lyrical content, but also because it arrives so soon in the aftermath of the Rihanna episode.

Brown appears to be asking fans to forgive him and help him move on. But should he really be allowed to? Has his status and celebrity earned him that right?

In my opinion, he should still be lying low. Instead, Graffiti‘s arrival so soon after Rated R feels particularly badly timed… and its lyrical content suggests he hasn’t really learned anything from the episode.

Admittedly, the vocals and slick production values that helped Brown to become a big name in waiting are evident and there are a handful of decent songs.

But overall, the album grates by virtue of its presence and some of the choice of lyrics.

Brown still views women as objects rather than equals or even human beings. Early on, Sing Like Me talks about what he’d like to do “when I get you up in my room, baby”, while Take My Time finds a female backing singer in a heightened state of arousal as Brown sings “I’ve been kissing and licking on you everywhere”.

Slowing down the tempo for a smooth groove R’n‘B strutter, or attempting to channel the pop sensibilities of Take That (on Crawl) don’t do him any favours either.

Perhaps more tellingly, on songs like Famous Girl, he ‘apologises’ for busting the windows of your car – a particularly jarring sentiment given where and how the Rihanna assault took place – while apparently rehabilitating himself on Lucky Me with lines like “even though I’m so damaged, I gotta pick myself up and perform”.

Brown’s lyrics were always going to be the subject of intense scrutiny in the wake of the assault, so you feel a little more care and humility should have been taken.

Even on the emotionally manipulative piano-drenched ballad So Cold he pleads for forgiveness while pondering whether the object of his broken affection will be coming home. We’d seriously doubt it at this point.

Die-hard Brown fans may still point towards the singer’s ability to conjure radio friendly R’n‘B that’s evidenced by the catchy likes of I Can Transform Ya, the sample driven Pass Out (featuring Steve Winwood), the urban heavy-hitter Wait, the funky, Black Eyed Peas-esque Lupe Fiasco collaboration Girlfriend and the breezy guitar-strummer For Ur Love.

But even then, Brown appears to be borrowing from the likes of Kanye West, using obvious samples or cashing in on trends in a bid to heighten his appeal.

At 20 tracks, it’s an interminable listen punctuated by truly dreadful moments.

And it’s about as offensive as seeing graffiti sprawled across any public wall. You really have to wonder what he was thinking…

Download picks: I Can Transform Ya, For Ur Love

Track listing:

  1. I Can Transform Her – Chris Brown & Lil’ Wayne/Swizz Beatz
  2. Sing Like Me
  3. Crawl
  4. So Cold
  5. What I Do – Chris Brown & Plies
  6. Famous Girl
  7. Take My Time – Chris Brown & Tank
  8. IYA
  9. Pass Out – Chris Brown & Eva Simmons
  10. Wait – Chris Brown & Trey Songz/The Game
  11. Lucky Me
  12. Fallin’ Down
  13. I’ll Go
  14. Girlfriend – Lupe Fiasco
  15. Gotta Be Ur Man
  16. For Ur Love
  17. I Need This
  18. I Love You
  19. Brown Skin Girl – Chris Brown & Sean Paul
  20. Chase Our Love